A splendid assemblage of significant work by one of our keenest observers.

THIS LIVING HAND

AND OTHER ESSAYS

A sterling collection of essays from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner.

Arranged chronologically rather than thematically, in “what amounts to a scrapbook of one man’s literary life,” the book ranges widely in tone from the serious to the satirical. Several of the works have yet to be published, and a few have been revised or expanded. Morris (Colonel Roosevelt, 2010, etc.), who writes that he is haunted by visual images, occasionally pairs a pertinent illustration with an essay and when necessary, inserts a footnote to clarify an obsolete reference. “Outside of literature in general and biography in particular,” he writes, “my non-book work has consisted mainly of commentary on the presidency and writings about classical music.” Morris begins with a 1972 essay, “The Bumstich: Lament for a Forgotten Fruit,” in which he recounts his time as a schoolboy in Kenya. The author concludes with “The Ivo Pogorelich of Presidential Biography,” an exploration of the process of writing Dutch (1999), his controversial book about Ronald Reagan. This last essay is an updated revision of three seminars the author gave while serving as a writer in residence at the University of Chicago in 2003. In other pieces, Morris laments the disappearance of snow on Mount Kilimanjaro; probes the psyche of South African writer Nadine Gordimer; explains his passion for writing biographies; narrates his tour through Britain’s Imperial War Museum; and bemoans the loss of the physical pleasure of writing with pen and ink or typewriter. “Parker man or Remington man,” he writes, “one felt a closeness to the finished product that the glass screen of a computer display now coldly precludes.”

A splendid assemblage of significant work by one of our keenest observers. 

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9312-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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